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Tito Ortiz's Salary

Months ago, in a Randy Couture press conference, we learned his bonus numbers.  Randy's bonus scale looked like this:

  • 100,000 - 175,000 buys - $1 per buy
  • 175,000 - 300,000 buys - $1.50 per buy
  • 300,000 - 330,000 buys - $2 per buy
  • 330,000 - plus buys - $3 per buy

We know that for UFC 73, Tito Ortiz made $710,000.  The show is widely believed to have done around 400,000 buys.  However, Tito recently claimed the show did less than 400k, blaming Dana for poorly marketing it and trying to kill his drawing ability.  If we assume the same scale (big assumption), then the show did 389,167 buys.   We also now know that Dana claims Tito made $5.6 million in 2006.  Using the numbers we have (415k for Forrest, 775k for Ken, 1.05m for Chuck), we get a total salary of $5,607,500.  Since the numbers we have are just estimates, and not exact, I think it is fair to say that is within the margin of error, and they are on the same scale.  His pay breaks down to:  $210,000 (base) for the TV special against Shamrock, $787,000 for the fight with Forrest, $1,917,500 for the fight with Ken on PPV, and $2,692,500 for the fight with Chuck (Note:  Liddell is believed to be on a different, higher bonus scale).  I think the upcoming show will do around 450,000 buys, in which case Tito would make $892,500.

Whether these numbers are "fair" or not is a different story, but this is the second time a money dispute has shed some light on UFC pay figures.  Looking at the Chuck fight, Chuck did 500,000 buys against Renato Sobral a few months earlier.  Seeing as a year later Chuck did 475,000 against Jardine when he was slightly less hot, I think it would be fair to say 500,000 was Chuck's base at the time.  Therefore, Tito brought in an extra 550,000 buys, and at $20 in revenue per buy, that is $11,000,000 in extra revenue.

However, it wasn't Tito alone that brought it in.  It was the fact that Tito was so hot coming off the highest rated season of TUF, decisively beating Shamrock twice.  Over a million fans then watched the best countdown special ever to hype the fight.  The UFC deserves a lot of credit for building the fight too.  As it actually breaks down, UFC took about 75% of that extra revenue, while Tito took 25%.  I do think that in private, Zuffa officials would claim that Chuck/Tito on its own without UFC hype and build over the calendar year 2006 would not have done even close to what it did, thus justifying keeping so much of that revenue.

It's worth remembering that we are talking about revenue and not profit, a distinction that Tito often fails to make when he talks about money.  He also routinely cites his pay in after-tax dollars, while referring to the money UFC takes in in pre-tax revenue.  This is extremely misleading and creates a false dichotomy.  We don't know the costs of running a UFC event in terms of advertising and everything else that goes into it, so it's hard to really comment on this in terms of fairness.  I just want to get the numbers out there to think about.  I do think Tito could make a very strong argument that he deserved a substantial bonus for the Shamrock TV special, considering the fact that its high rating did a ton for the UFC.